New supercomputer simulations of the crusts of neutron stars--the rapidly spinning ashes left over from supernova explosions--reveal that they contain the densest and strongest material in the universe. So dense, in fact, that the gravity of the mountain-sized imperfections on the surfaces of these stars might actually jiggle spacetime itself. If so, neutron stars could offer new insights into a mysterious phenomenon known as gravity waves.
Neutron stars are the remnants of supernovae – basically the corpses of stars that were much more massive than our Sun. After the supernova explosion so much matter remains with no means to support itself (such as radiation pressure from thermonuclear reactions) that it all collapses into a relatively small object having a radius of about 12 km. The density of such an object is extremely high. Because the material is so dense, it is also very strong and rigid. Consequently, it does not collapse to a perfectly smooth sphere, but instead should contain surface imperfections roughly the size of (small) terrestrial mountains, each as massive as Earth.
In neutron stars that spin rapidly, the asymmetrical mass of these imperfections experiencing acceleration due to the periodic spinning motion should generate gravitational waves. The simulations that were performed in this research have shown that the energy in such gravitational waves could be a hundred times more than previously expected.
Tags: neutron stars, gravitational waves
Links to this post: